The future of Ontario Place: An adventure park, botanical gardens

A year-round concert venue, botanical gardens, indoor pools, escape rooms, obstacle courses and immersive art experiences are part of the province’s vision for Ontario Place.

Premier Doug Ford announced details of the redevelopment plans for the provincial event venue and park, which will involve concert promoter Live Nation, Austria-based thermal bathing company Therme Group and Montreal recreation company Écorécréo Group.

The companies were selected following a redevelopment proposal call in 2019, seven years after Ontario Place partially closed as a tourist destination. The bidding process was kept behind closed doors, but the province now plans to launch public consultations in late August that will run into the fall.

The province plans to make the site a year-round destination, rather than just a seasonal one. Ford said the plans will maintain the waterfront site’s heritage buildings, including the Cinesphere and iconic pods, as well as Trillium Park, the marina and the William G. Davis Trail.

“It will not include casinos. It will not include condos and the land will not be sold. Full stop,” Ford said during a news conference on Friday morning. “It will be a public place for everyone to come and experience.”

Asked how much the redevelopment will cost, Ford said he couldn’t share the exact figure. “As we roll out, we’re going to be able to announce that.”

The province also plans to involve the Ontario Science Centre in programming science-related events and tourist attractions at the pods and the Cinesphere.

Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod said soil remediation and upgrades to the pods and Cinesphere will also be necessary.

The timeline for the redevelopment is between 2027 and 2030. The park will remain open to the public while construction is taking place.

Ontario Place continues to attract one million visitors per year, the province said. During the pandemic, the site has become an outdoor destination for people looking to get exercise and socialize. It’s also hosted outdoor movie screenings and drive-in events in partnership with festivals, including TIFF.

Here’s an overview of the plans the government presented today:

A rendering of the redeveloped Budweiser Stage
Province of Ontario

A revamped Budweiser Stage

The plans will see promoter Live Nation redevelop outdoor concert amphitheatre Budweiser Stage into a year-round indoor/outdoor venue. One of the city’s biggest venues, Bud Stage hosts major touring acts and is the home of Drake’s OVO Fest.

The new venue will have a capacity of 20,000 in the summer and 9,000 in the winter. Live Nation expects to break ground before 2027 and aims to complete the project in 2030.

The development will maintain the venue’s lawns and convert to an indoor space through retractable walls. Live Nation projects the new venue will accommodate one million visitors each year.

A rendering of a year-round pool at the redeveloped Ontario Place
Province of Ontario

A health and wellness environment

Therme Group will build Therme Canada, billed as “an all-season, family-friendly health and wellness experience.” The indoor spaces will include pools, waterslides, botanical gardens and “sports performance and recovery services.”

The eight-acre outdoor space will be free and include gathering spaces, outdoor gardens and public beaches. Therme will also program arts and culture, including “immersive arts experiences,” at the park.

Architecture firm Diamond Schmitt will head up the Thereme project, which will be located on Ontario Place’s West Island. The building itself will resemble a greenhouse, with transparent bird-friendly glass, rooftop pools and a planted interior.

“The new aspects of the facilities are comprised of four main components: a new entrance pavilion, a new bridge to the West Island, new parkland and beach areas and the main Therme Canada/Ontario Place building,” the firm said in a press release.

“The Therme building transforms the West Island and is designed to combine the restorative environment of a botanical garden with the physical and sensory experience of an aquatic environment.”

A map showing the redeveloment plans for Ontario Place
Province of Ontario

An adventure park for families

The province did not release renderings of the proposed adventure park, but said it will be “all-season, affordable, family-friendly.” It will include aerial obstacle courses, net-based aerial adventures, ziplines, climbing walls and escape rooms. Écorécréo will also operate segway, quadcycle, canoe and kayak rentals at the site.

Located on Toronto’s waterfront, Ontario Place opened in 1971 and comprises 155 acres of land and water.


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